Example of a roach trap.

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Getting Rid of Roaches

Most pest control experts recommend two primary methods for controlling roaches. First, seal off any cracks or holes that roaches could use to get into your home. Roaches can fit into extremely small spaces, including cracks that are only 1/16 of an inch (1.5 millimeters) thick. For this reason, completely blocking all roach entrances can be very difficult. Determining which species of roach has entered your home can help you narrow down which parts of your home to focus on. The University of California has descriptions of the main pest species of cockroach and information on how to identify them.

Second, keep your home clean. Even spotless homes can become infested with roaches, but leaving food or garbage out in the open is likely to attract pests. Cover and seal all of your food, and wipe down counters and tables after eating. Sweep or mop your floor after cooking, and eat only in your dining area. Always wash dirty dishes promptly, since even tiny spots of food or grease can become food for roaches.

If these steps do not reduce the cockroach population in your home, the next step is to use traps to kill the roaches. Many experts suggest using traps before resorting to sprays or powders since you can look in the traps to see whether you've caught any roaches. If you haven't, you can move the traps to another location. This can help you figure out where the roaches are coming from and where to focus spray or powder treatments if they become necessary.

Many people prefer not to use poisons in their homes. However, experts caution that many natural devices for cockroach control, like ones that emit sound, do not really work. Fortunately, studies have shown that some natural substances can repel cockroaches:

  • Nepetalactone, which is present in two forms in catnip
  • Ceneole, also known as eucalyptol, which is present in bay leaves
  • Osage orange oil, although scientists have not determined the exact active ingredient

Some infestations respond only to chemical deterrents or poisons. Your best bet may be to contact an exterminator who can determine exactly which species of cockroach is present and which chemicals to use to kill it. The University of California has more information about which chemicals are best to use on which species of cockroach.

Check out the links on the next page for lots more information on cockroaches, insects and related topics.